After a marathon journey I arrived home, still mostly in one piece, and glowing from the weekend. I enjoyed the chance to explore Brighton again - it's suffered, like most places, in the recession but areas like The Lanes and North Laine are still fascinating: full of cafes, restaurants, and intriguing shops. I enjoyed our stop-off on the way down at Waddesdon Manor, where we wandered round the gardens and ate a sandwich perched on a bench in blazing sunshine. And most of all, I enjoyed the conference.
For starters, it was lovely to meet everyone, and put faces to names that have previously only been at the bottom of emails, or on the flyleaf of a book. The event was staggeringly well-organised, with goody bags stuffed with swag, lunch laid on, free tea and coffee on tap (although the jelly babies are another story...) and everything running to near-perfect time. The panels were interesting (how to market your book without losing the will to live is always going to be a subject dear to my heart) but most of all it was good to just mingle with like-minded people. As Charlie Cochrane, organiser and fellow author, said, here nobody had to explain why they wrote what they wrote, or read what they read, or liked what they liked. One of the bracelets in my swag bag had a motto which read 'Our difference is our strength'. It pretty much sums up the attitude to reading, writing and life in general on display amongst the delegates.
And when I read out the first few lines of my novel at the Novel Openings panel, everybody cheered, which didn't exactly hurt!
Next year's event has already been pencilled in for July, in Manchester, and I'll be first in line for a ticket.
Thanks to everyone who helped to make the event such a resounding success.